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Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Tag: articles on motivation (Page 1 of 2)

Teamwork and Politics, Alligators and Sharks and Fear as a Motivator

Organizational Improvement and Performance Management and Innovation and Teamwork.

These are real issues and represent improvement opportunities in most every organization. To some people, it’s “Bring on the challenges” while for many others, it is, “run for the hills!” And there is a ground reality for both groups and their thinking.

Early Adapters are those individuals who simply love the challenges of putting something together and implementing to see the results. They are somewhat less risk averse than most people in organizations, but they also seem to have a mindset of being able to meet challenges, adapt as needed, take some hits but keep things moving forward — then tend to see the Big Picture in things and like the rewards obtained from successes. They view risk taking as a manageable and normal part of their job.

Others may not feel as confident in their survival skills and will choose to observe a bit and see if positive results are recognized or if some failures get a more negative treatment. They tend to look at survival as something more important, that the known issues and downsides of taking risks are quite real as opposed to some possibility of maybe getting some recognition.

It is a different style issue, to some extent, but also an issue of personal perspective and personal history. Different people view the same situation differently.

I tried to illustrate this situation with my Trial and Error illustration and the supporting activities and comments in another blog. You can read about it by clicking on the image link below:

square wheels image of Trial and Error

Basically, do people see the attempt at improvement in the illustration above as a good thing or do they focus their critical attention on the things that should or could have been done better? Now that they have stepped back and have some perspective, do they re-approach the wagon and continue working or do they simply run over the hill and look for something else?

Continuous continuous improvement comes from continuous reinforcement of incremental improvement. But fear also comes into play (read about Fear as the Mindkiller in another of my blogs).

The reframing thought I would like to share is the basic idea that caterpillars can fly if they would just lighten up! Fear is a manageable situation for most people in most organizations and some additional thoughts and a survey about understanding fear will be the subject of a later post, based on some work by the late Gene Calvert.

Politics is represented in my illustrations by the idea of mud. It is that gooey stuff that is hard to get a grip on. It exists more after rain, so it may be different for different workgroups on different days, but the mud still forms. And people need to deal with it. You can find information about our change management toolkit using the Square Wheels illustrations by clicking on the image link below:

Square Wheels Mud Image and haiku

The key is how we deal with it and how we look at the environment. We’re up to our axles in mud and we need to get out of the ditch and up on the road, which takes both effort and perspective. There is also the issue of perceived risk. Some people look at how things are working and consider the cost and downside more than the potential benefits for improvement. Staying in the mud in the ditch might be perceived as a safer situation than trying to work to get free.

The might be that if it CAN go wrong, then it probably WILL go wrong and that the risk is not justified by the small reward potentially gained by taking that risk. It is an issue of organizational culture, positivity, and perspective. You can find a good bit of writing on Murphy’s Law and a lot of the correlates of that thinking in an earlier blog of mine here.

The solutions can actually be pretty straightforward. People tend to take more risks if they are part of a team, and that team tends to take more risks if the recent past attempts to improve have generated some positive reward or reaction. If failure is accepted when in the context of sincere attempts to implement change or improvement, we begin to change the culture and the nature of the mud.

The other reality is that the environment sometimes feels like this:

Alligators and Sharks Competition poemOne view says, DANGER. The closely associated view says, “pressure to make improvements.” A bit of perspective shows that some level of motivation to change will help drive improvement. The key is whether it is energizing or that it simply causes people to freeze in fear. Fear is the Mindkiller, right?

It is kind of like building a wall of mud: the critical act is throwing mud at the wire fence. You may not know precisely where each bit of mud might stick, but the act of persistent mud throwing WILL build a wall over time. (It is probably reasonable to also expect some rain on occasion (grin) ).

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

 

 

Leading People by Involving and Engaging – some resources

Motivating, aligning and engaging people are critical tasks of managing, but also something that seems to need consistent attention from leaders at every level of the organization.

In my 30+ years of working with people and performance, an Engaging Leader is one who facilitates and sustains an inclusive and supportive workplace for those who they lead, so that people become increasingly active participants in organizational and performance improvement. They take an incremental, long term view and look for a better future for the workgroup and the individuals.

How does a leader better involve and engage people? In my view of the world, they increase the shared vision of the future. It looks something like this:

The View from The Front is different than the View at the Back. And people DO have ideas for workplace improvement that can be implemented with teamwork.

The View from The Front is different than the View at the Back. And people DO have ideas for workplace improvement that can be implemented with teamwork.

You do not need to be a professional facilitator to involve and engage your people in workplace improvement. One just needs to get them working with you to identify issues and opportunities; generally, they will be self-motivated to make things better. And, you can build their intrinsic motivation and increase their creativity by helping them move forward. You can help them to implement their ideas and we have the tools, small packages of self-directed communications bundles that are simple as well as inexpensive.

We Sell Simple Tools for Engaging Employees

You will find that these easy-to-use, engaging tools are designed for leaders to facilitate communications, motivation, collaboration, innovation and teamwork. Examples of these toolkits are:

Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit
A powerfully simple tool to get people engaged in the journey forward. This basic program is for anyone wanting to facilitate workplace improvement
and involve and engage people to impact intrinsic motivation.

The Square Wheels Coaching for Improved Performance Toolkit
Coaching is about involving and engaging and changing the picture of how things can be. One needs to develop a sense of ownership and deal with issues of perceived roadblocks to generate alternative choices.

Manager as Motivator – A Square Wheels Toolkit
A complete program for Facilitating Employee Involvement and Implementation of Ideas. A train-the-trainer kind of bundle for trainers and more senior managers to use to teach their managers involvement and motivational skills.

Innovate & Implement
A solid learning tool. It puts as few as 3 people (but works with an unlimited number of players) in a situation where they have to work together in a challenging, time-limited game focused on collaboration and communications.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Goldmine Team Building Game
This is our flagship team building exercise and you can find dozens of supporting articles here in the blog that explains its very unique capabilities and applications. It has received worldwide acclamation as a Game for Team Building, Communications, Strategic Planning, Collaboration and Leadership Development that works with all kinds of organizations and groups.

Any of these along with the other products on our website are proven tools for reaching out to and engaging employees in the process of continuous, continuous improvement.

Here are some of my Blog Articles around the Idea of Engaged Leaders who help generate a motivated and innovative workplace.

If You Aren’t Leading and Engaging, What are You Doing?

LEGO, Square Wheels, Innovation, Leadership and Stuff

Fear is The Mindkiller – Thoughts on Facilitation and Engagement

Facilitation? Me, a Facilitator? Me, a MOTIVATOR??

Decision Making, Creativity, and Implementation

Teamwork and Square Wheels and Implementation

Can Creativity be Taught? Illustrated Thoughts

Focusing Attention on Performance Improvement through Interactive Engagement

square wheels business haiku on intrinsic motivation

If we can help you, connect with me. I am easy to reach and can offer some pretty realistic and straightforward ideas and solutions to many performance improvement and team building issues that we find in the workplaces of the world.

Square Wheels Intrinsic Motivation illustration

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

What does a Russian Lyrical Poet have to do with Workplace Motivation and Engagement?

In this post, I wax philosophic about a suicidal Russian poet and depression and share some thoughts on workplace motivation and issues of involvement. It starts out tough but, hopefully, you’ll find the ending more uplifting.

———

Sergei Yesenin 1922 Sergei Yesenin was a lyrical Russian poet around the turn of the last century, who wrote about the depression and difficulty he saw in the world around him. He might be the best known of all the Russian poets based on a couple of websites. I saw this reference to him in a poem in a novel I read this week:

The moon will float up into the sky,
dropping the oars into the water.
As ever, Russia will get by,
and dance and weep in every quarter

and that got me looking up information in Wikipedia and TheInkBrain, which has an extensive biography. His last poem, “Goodbye my friend, goodbye,” was written at age 30 and done in his own blood just before he committed suicide in 1925. They are beautiful but often sad writings and the view of the world of which he writes is engaging– he starts with writings about love and the meaning of life while his latter works take on a much less positive view of the world around him. Depressing and hopeless…

But no longer wake me up at sunrise,
As you used to do eight years ago.  
Do not waken dreams no longer precious,
Hope never fulfilled do not excite.

Somehow, my thoughts around this led to my thinking about the new, involved and enthusiastic employee who is often found to succumb to the dreary realities of so many workplaces and whose motivation and energy eventually tends to norm downward — regression to the mean, the average of that workplace. For me, it is about the existing opportunities that are there to be realized and what might be possible versus the sad reality of what too often happens for so many people in the workplace in that they don’t continue to feel involved and motivated. We can do things differently; we can make better choices.

One of the biggest challenges we face as managers in organizations is the mental health of our people and their ability and desire to work in teams and to be productive and innovative. If they simply drift toward their perceived reality of few real opportunities for personal improvement, we will not see the impact that I think we want. Lots of people have difficulties working and being involved and engaged in the day-to-day opportunities, based on many studies done around issues of engagement and motivation. Why do we keep doing things the same way?

In a relatively recent study, The Ken Blanchard Company found that while 70% of employees wanted to converse with their manager about their goals and tasks, only 28% of leaders actually tended to have those kinds of conversations with their people. This same study also found that more than 80% of leaders don’t listen to their employees, something that we have read in the literature since, well, the turn of the century! Some things just do not seem to change. The study found that 64% of employees want to use meeting time with their bosses to solve workplace problems while 19% report that they rarely or never have those conversations.  Sixty four percent wish they could talk with the boss about problems with colleagues but only 8% actually do.

Is it that there is simply no time to listen? Are people afraid? Is the depression of ideals and morale just that pathetic in the workplace today? Do we not have all the technology we need such as smart phones, email, texting and other kinds of communications? Or is it that managers just do not really care about people and performance. I am befuddled. I see the world operating like this day after day and year after year and decade after decade:

square wheels image of how things work

Can’t we just talk about things? The Round Wheels are already in that wagon! Every time and always. Let’s choose to do things differently in 2014 and make a big difference in people and performance.

Why bother? Lots of reasons including these business ones:  Sirota Research found that high-morale companies greatly outperformed their industry competitors in 2012 when considering year-over-year stock market returns.  Sirota found that companies with high morale (those with scores at the 75th percentile or higher who ask “overall satisfaction with their company” on their annual employee attitude surveys) had stronger year-over-year stock performance than their industry counterparts.  

High-morale companies averaged a 15.1% improvement in their stock price while their matched industry comparisons averaged only a 4.1% year-over-year improvement (a difference of 11 percentage points or 368%!) Moderate-morale companies (companies scoring between the 25th and 75th percentiles on employee attitude surveys) matched their industry counterparts  with only a 0.8 percentage point difference, and the low-morale companies were 166% (or 13 percentage points) lower than their industry counterparts.

“We’re Not So Bad” is apparently not so good, either!

There is also an interesting post on worker-owned businesses (link is here) and it says, in part, that even without transitioning to a co-operative structure, we can learn from democratic workplaces and adopt the way they function. The author adds her thoughts to a recent article by David Brodwin in US News and World Report that made the case for why more employee-owned businesses are needed. Brodwin compared cooperatives and top-tier professional firms run by partnerships, stating that each type of business is more accountable, resilient, and flexible. The number of these worker-owned business in the United States is growing around 6% per year and now account for about 12% of the private sector workforce.

So, some changes are occurring in organizational structures that support more employee involvement and ownership. Since we can each choose to do things differently, maybe that poem used to start this article should become:

People can fly high in the sky,
And cause great ripples in the water.
Companies can do more than get by,
And see so many impacts every quarter.

 Square Wheels and Butterfly - Choose to Fly

For the FUN of It!

scott tiny casual

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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The Origin of Engagement in the breakdown of Appraisal and Control

Simply put:

We need stop doing such a lousy job
of motivating people in the workplace.

Stats show 85% of employees report their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job (from Sirota Survey Intelligence) and 49% of workers say they constantly have their antennae out for new job opportunities — even when they are happy in their current position. Few feel their current employer is giving them a fair deal in terms of advancement opportunities (Kelly survey).

In a recent Forum Corp. survey, only 8% of employees report that they trust their leaders “to a great extent.”  But in that very same survey, 96% of employees say that it is, “extremely important to have a manager they can trust.”

I expand on a lot of issues of workplace motivation in this two-part post,

Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”
(Part One) (Part Two)

The data is clear. People are not involved and engaged in the workplace and these people, their managers, the customers and the company all pay a price for that un-engagement.

square wheels image

Solutions for this are pretty much everywhere. Improving leadership and its alignment to core values and an expressed mission and vision — one that is real and congruent to their behavior — is a good place to start. Improving teamwork and collaboration in the workplace is another good place to begin to re-engage people.

Here is a short 6-minute video on the engagement network
that frames up some obvious solutions.

Removal of the perceived roadblocks to good performance is basic and straightforward and you can read some of my ideas about managing that here.

There are some thoughts here on sharing praise and managing performance feedback, including a link to my Feedback Analysis Checklist. (Click here to see that blog post) and there is a long, two-part series of articles that get into a lot of ideas and information and statistics on managing performance here.

What we need to do is understand that passion and trust are critical factors in workplace motivation and that our traditional approach of performance appraisal and performance evaluation simply puts the worker and the manager into an adversarial kind of environment. The typical “reward systems” that are installed by HR and supported by the executive team are not working and will not work, serving very often to simply put the people into competition, which more often sub-optimizes the overall group performance a lot more than it motivates the top performers.

Best practices already exist in the organization, but developing the teamwork to help install them throughout the workplace cannot be done with competition as the driving force. The ideas for improvement already exist, but we cannot make improvements if we keep working like this:

Square Wheels One cannot expect improvement words

We need to do things differently
or we will continue to get the same results!

The change needs to be at the interface of the worker and the supervisor. All that other stuff is nice, but it is the manager that needs to change their behavior. We also can build on the natural tendency of people to work together on shared goals and desired outcomes. People are competitive, but teamwork does occur naturally.

We must put the power into the hands of the supervisor, not in the hands of some remote and well-intentioned HR Control Group that has little in common with the workers and supervisors and who do not share the same expectations, desired outcomes and goals, or rewards for good performance. Performance Appraisal and Evaluation — even if you improve it — will not do much to improve workplace performance. Simply because:

  • Fear is the Mindkiller (from the Dune books) — competition produces winners and lots more losers and no one likes to lose.
  • Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled. (Frank Navran)
  • Nobody ever washes a rental car. Ownership and hands-on involvement are critical factors in success.

Get them involved and engaged with you in your workplace improvement efforts and focus HR on human capital improvement, not performance appraisal and so-called incentive motivation.

We cannot become what we want to be

PMC has great tools for facilitating engagement and involvement and for building teams and teamwork, tools that work for supervisors interested in the improvement of workplace performance and motivating people. It is not rocket science — it is straightforward, simple and simply continuous…

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Motivating People and Performance – Three Simple Ideas

A lot has been written about generating higher levels of performance to produce better results. And a lot has been written about improving engagement and involvement to improve innovation and employee retention. A further lot has been written about improving teamwork among employees and management.

None of this is rocket science and none of this actually requires much of a budget or the involvement of the training department or human resources. None of this even really requires any support of senior management, although that should be an expected occurrence in organizations trying to implement improvements. What it does clearly involve is the active engagement of line managers.

Here are actually Three Big Simple Ideas.

  1. Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback. (also known as Alignment.)
  2. Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to that alignment.
  3. Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

Let me briefly expand and explain how you can take your people to a higher level of performance. And this will not cost anything. If you email me by clicking on this link, I will send you the free Square Wheels tool that you can try, with no obligation. But remind me of the offer from your reading this blog!

square wheels image

1 – Build involvement and engagement by facilitating a series of meetings on visions, missions, goals, expectations and feedback.

The statistics are clear: Some or most people in many or most organizations do NOT really understand the overall goals and objectives of the organization – at best, this is 4 of 5 people but it is generally not that high. Data are clear on this, even though most managers would say that it is not likely in their organization. Your people might know their jobs, but they often do not understand how what they do fits into the bigger picture. Thus, we often see departmental squabbles when the customer is the one who is really impacted, which indicates an alignment issue.

Let’s say that your company is implementing a new strategy and your group is part of that process of making some changes to better align with these new goals. What are reasonable expectations? My friend Robin Speculand at Bridges Consultancy in Singapore has some global statistics that are numbing:

  • 90% of strategies fail to deliver even 50% of their objectives.
  • Only 5% of employees have a basic understanding of the company strategy
  • Only 2% of managers are confident that they will achieve 80% or more of their strategy’s defined objectives.

So much about the success of such initiatives are simply about facilitation and communications of visions, missions, goals, and expectations and changes in feedback and measurement systems.

This alignment process is not a difficult one, but it is something that really needs to be accomplished. And, you should do this through questions and tabletop discussions and not

2 – Create some teams and allow them to accomplish things related to the above.

You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve;
a wrong that you want to right.

Steve Jobs

It has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.
Steve Jobs

There are dozens of ways to build teams. Basically, they need to have some kind of challenge that they want to address and some kind of organizational support that they feel will allow them to address the issue. We use the simple process of facilitating Square Wheels One to both involve them creatively as well as get them to share and agree on some specific Square Wheels that are operating.

This produces cognitive dissonance, a motivation to close the gap between the Square Wheel and some possible Round Wheels. One of the keys is their perceived likelihood of getting the support needed to address that implementation. Cultural and company cultural differences will lead to different strategies and tactics to address this opportunity. And I have written extensively around issues of implementation throughout the nearly 300 posts in this blog.

Teams will form naturally in most workplaces if they are allowed. And there are all sorts of models that can be overlaid for the long-term, like Kaizen or Lean. Find one that works already in your organization — no sense reinventing that particular wheel!

3 – Improve facilitation skills and use involvement to generate participation.

The issue is generally not one of compensation or similar cultural roadblocks to performance. The Kelly Global Workforce Index from in June, 2013 said:

  • 45% of workers in The Americas agreed that they receive equitable compensation for their work.
  • 44% say they would perform at a higher level if compensation were tied to performance / productivity.
  • Reframing that, 55% of the workers feel that they do not receive equitable compensation (one can assume most feel undercompensated) and 56% of them are saying that they could accomplish more if they were better motivated.

If you are interested in more statistics on these kinds of issues, Part IV of my post on managing and leading change summarizes a lot of data about people and performance. You can find Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly – Part 4 here.

The issue is relatively simple. You have to stop TELLING them things and begin to ASK them more about their understandings and their ideas. You can save time by lecturing, but you lose all the energy that arises from involvement and ownership.

Lastly, remember that a transfer of ownership involvement is a key step in getting the people involved and the momentum for change. Make this improvement opportunity theirs, since:

Nobody ever washes a rental car!

I’ve said it a zillion times: People do not take care of things when they feel no ownership involvement. If it is their idea, they own it. If they talk in defense of a position, they own it. If you can get them sharing ideas and deciding to do things differently, they own it. And all you need to do is provide the support and resources to help them get things done.

square wheels author

 

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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Dis-Un-Engagement – Improving Motivation and Facilitating Workplace Improvement

Solutions to performance improvement are not always obvious and apparent and selecting an optimal approach often requires careful analysis and planning. Sometimes, the solution requires training of a skill while other times, it is simply about choosing an implementation strategy that is more effective in supporting behavior change.

In the case of workplace engagement, we are spending billions of dollars annually in surveys and training that is supposed to improve the feelings of involvement on the part of employees. Yet nearly every research study shows that many organizations and many people in most every organization, are dis-engaged and uninvolved.

In a 2012 Gallup research paper, involving 1.4 million people and almost 50,000 organizations, it clearly demonstrated the impacts of an involved workplace, studying 9 different performance outcomes. Here are the results when one compares the top 25% of organizations with the bottom 25%:

  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% higher profitability

Many suggest that firing and hiring is the best solution to the issue of un-engaged workers. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, suggests firing the 7,000,000 managers who are toxic and are poisoning 70,000,000 workers. Others blame the workers for the problem and suggest that hiring new people is the solution. (Ironically, Sirota Research found that it takes about 8 months for new hires to regress to the average performance levels of the rest of the workers. So, it seems you have to accomplish a lot of things in a narrow window of time.)

Let me propose a somewhat different framework:

If you put a gun to their head, could people do things differently?

This is an old thinking test that is attributed to Bob Mager that I first heard of back in the late 1970s. It is at the core of the issue of whether training is required for some behavior to occur. Could managers do a better job of engaging if their life depended upon it? My thinking is clearly YES and OF COURSE. But it seems very evident, looking at statistics, that they are choosing not to do so.

So, my reframing question is a simple one:

Can Each One Reach One?

Can each supervisor reach one non-engaged person in their workforce and take some action to involve and engage them? Without waiting for extensive training done by some outside organization or Human Resources? Can every single individual supervisor simply choose to do something differently?

Won’t people in the workplace naturally coalesce around the simple theme of making things better? Don’t most people have issues they would like to correct and ideas for improvement? Don’t most people like to solve puzzles and problems?

My approach is anchored with an illustration and a process of involving and engaging people to share their thoughts and ideas.

Our first illustration (1993) looks like this:

SWs One green watermark

while our new approach uses this image:

Square Wheels One is a metaphor for performance improvement by Scott Simmerman

And the lead-in question is a really simple one:
How might this represent how most organizations really work?

Without detailing the very simple training around how to facilitate the discussion and process the ideas for identifying and prioritizing the Square Wheels or designing approaches to successfully implement the Round Wheels and celebrate the successes and impacts, the basic concept is that any supervisor can be taught the facilitation skills and frameworks to make such a discussion process easy and straightforward.

With a little bit of customization, one can easily align the most successful implementation strategies to the organization’s culture of best practices and optimal ways to introduce new ideas in the workplace.

With a little imagination, the approach can be linked to the existing feedback and measurement systems to generate sustained improvement and congruence with existing expectations and desired results.

The approach that I envision is to initially get the buy-in from senior management to use this illustration and the concept that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon to develop an online training course on facilitation skills using these illustrations.

The program can be targeted to specific desired organizational outcomes around process improvement, service quality improvement, team building, innovation, process improvement or it can simply be used to generate some clear understanding of the issues that are perceived to be un-engaging and frustrating in the workplace and to allow team-based organizational improvement.

We would customize worksheets for collection of the general ideas as well as specific ones that people would like to work to improve. Issues not solvable at the supervisor level can be collected for manager resolution or escalated to higher levels of the organization as well as across organizational boundaries.

From these discussions, it is easy and straightforward to collect Best Practices that can be shared across teams of people doing similar jobs. It works well for addressing inter-departmental issues, since the language of Square Wheels is easily understood as something that works, but that does not work smoothly and efficiently.

The conversations also set up the reality of continuous continuous improvement, since the Round Wheels of Today will inevitably and invariably become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

Solution: I envision that we co-develop a simple online training program that would take a supervisor about an hour to complete and one that would offer them some options for how they might use the illustration in their workplaces, with individuals for coaching or for team building problem solving and roadblock management.

Square Wheels are the protected intellectual property of Performance Management Company and we have two decades of experience in using them for a wide variety of organizational development purposes.

I do see this issue of Dis-Un-Engagement as a specific approach to dealing with the less than involved and engaged employees, a group thought to represent roughly 70% of all workers across organizations. Your best managers may have higher levels of engaged people; your worse ones have more opportunities for improvement.

We can improve workplace facilitation of ideas, generate higher levels of intrinsic motivation, and do a better job of innovating.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/


Square Wheels® are the protected intellectual property of Performance Management Company and we have two decades of experience in using them for a wide variety of organizational development purposes. Please respect our copyrights and trademark.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

A softball cartoon on employee engagement…

John Junson, a cartoonist working with David Zinger at The Employee Engagement Network, just published his 365th cartoon around issues of employee engagement and the reality of the workplace.

I thought this one was really cute and could certainly be used generically to stimulate discussions about some of the issues people face when dealing with managers. That interface to manager to worker is where the leverage really occurs in generating teamwork and innovation and personal growth.

So, I share that illustration here:

295

I am into metaphor, and the idea of a window on the world and a live plant are certainly. I think I might have her holding her arms up in a “touchdown” kind of gesture and someone said that the hind portion of the boss on the left side might have some skin showing, since he IS showing his (arse) by behaving as he is. But maybe I am just a little too direct, ya think?

You can get to and join this free network of 10,000 people focused on people and performance at http://employeeengagement.ning.com/

You can find some writings and other information about the impacts of increasing active involvement in the workplace at this recent blog, which connects to some of my other writings on this issue.

DO have some fun out there. Do some things differently today than you normally do and see if you can make a small positive difference to someone.

Each One, Reach One.

And realize that this engagement issue is only somewhat about other people and bad HR processes — it is a lot more about your people, their active involvement, related intrinsic motivation and the leadership behaviors that you choose to show that allows all of us to operate more effectively with our teams.

 

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Top Performers Least Engaged Workers? Low Performers Most Involved?

In 4 of 10 companies, low performers were more engaged than the high performers, a paradox that has some big implications for your organization’s long term results. The people who are bringing you the least impact are more engaged than your best performers, who need involvement and engagement for you to retain them. Yeah, motivation is a funny thing!

John Baldoni shared some survey data from LeadershipIQ on the HBR Blog Network, which has a nice pdf analysis of the data. It IS thought provoking. John wrote this up well and gave me permission to repost, so I will keep this whole post short and link to it with some other blog posts on my thinking. I will retain his links and add my cartoons! Here is what John wrote:

Some of the most engaged employees in your organization are your worst performers. And some of the least engaged are your highest performers.

This conclusion comes from new research by the consulting firm, Leadership IQ. The study “matched engagement survey and performance appraisal data for 207 organizations.” According to CEO Mark Murphy (who I interviewed via email), “We had long suspected that high performers might not be as engaged as has traditionally been assumed. But seeing that, in 42% of cases, high performers were even less engaged than low performers was a bit of a shock.”

This conclusion runs contrary to conventional wisdom as well as many studies (including this one from Gallup) that show high engagement — that is, how much employees are committed to their work — correlates with better bottom line results, including productivity and profitability.

You could think of these low performers as hamsters on a wheel, spinning fast but actually going nowhere.

Rat Cage Making Progress Yet yellow

Conversely, high performers may be coasting like swans on a pond, just gliding by. You don’t see their effort because it’s below the water. As Murphy says, “in our study, high performers gave very low marks when asked if employees all live up to the same standards.”

Overlay - duck color

While low performers may be more engaged, their efforts may not be as productive, especially since it’s the higher performers — disengaged though they may be — who are doing all the work. The underperformance of the former undermines the effort of the latter. This is especially true, according to the study, when low performers are not held accountable for poor performance. These employees may not even know they are doing a poor job.

Naturally when poor performers are allowed to slide by, it erodes the morale of high performers who feel, again according to the study, “helpless about the trajectory of their careers.”

 (Read Scott’s blog about “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…”)

“We had seen plenty of cases where managers avoid dealing with low performers (because they believe the conversation will be difficult), and instead assign work to the employees they enjoy — i.e. high performers.,” says Murphy. “And as a result, they end up ‘burning out’ those same high performers they enjoy so much.”

While I find Leadership IQ’s findings linking high engagement to poor performers to be contrarian, it is not usual for good performers to feel lost in the system. This is a comment I hear not infrequently in my coaching work.

So what to do about it? Murphy offers two suggestions. “First, leaders need to set very explicit, and behaviorally-specific, expectations for performance. These expectations need to define and delineate good, great, and even poor performance so employees and managers can clearly define and differentiate best practices, teach those practices to others, and then hold people accountable accordingly.”

Doing this, according to Murphy, “gives high performers confidence that their manager understands the meaning of ‘high performer’ and it holds the manager accountable to actually differentiate employees on the basis of their performance.”

Second, Murphy suggests regularly monthly leadership meetings (perhaps lasting no more than 20 minutes) that ask managers about what’s going on in their workplaces and how motivated they feel. As Murphy says, “If a company CEO were told that their best customers were unhappy, it’s a safe bet that CEO would be on a plane within hours. If we truly believe that people are our most important asset, shouldn’t we pay a bit more attention to the engagement of the best of those people?”

Senior management needs to communicate more clearly, hold people at every level accountable for results, and actively invest time and resources in the talents of high performers.

All too often companies do not know their employees are unhappy until they leave. Exit interviews reveal that they leave because they did not believe anyone cared. Research has confirmed the old saw that people leave bosses, not companies. That makes holding bosses accountable for employee engagement critical.

Senior leaders need to do a better job of teaching managers how to be better managers. And they also need to apply such standards to themselves.

———————————–

I trust that you find this data and John’s framing of it to be of interest and use, as I did. If we expect workplace performance to improve, engagement and involvement are an easy way to address these opportunities. Doing another survey is not going to help us. Focusing on Dis-Un-Engagement is much more likely to pay dividends.

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Tons of Good Writings, so why is improvement so hard? Part One

This is the first of two articles that hammer on the issues around supervision and how they affect engagement and performance. Spending billions for decades, why can’t we actually make improvements in organizations?

I’ll admit to being a pack rat when it comes to articles and interesting ideas. Next to me in the den is the January 1982 issue of Management Review with articles about how FEAR is common in management approaches to people and performance (Machovec and Smith), one on team management and motivation (Littlejohn) and another on closing the gaps in human performance (Bolt and Rummler).

1982 – and a rereading of them shows the articles highly underlined (this seems to be before the invention of the highlighter!) and all the key learning points are really solid. No surprises. On my floor is a 2002 article about collaboration and team building and how organizations need to improve alignment and focus more on collective intelligence — “All of Us know more than Any of Us.”

Like many of you, I have a few hundred books, going back to include Tom Gilbert’s Human Competence (1978 and since republished) and so many other great books by so many authors like Drucker and Peters. Thousands of old articles, and now, thousands of new blog posts, websites, eBooks and all that. Guess I go back the dinosaur age but I sure feel younger than that…

Google ChromeScreenSnapz001 So, what is so darn hard about managing and leading people? Why are companies spending two hundred BILLION dollars every year on newer and newer training programs, blended learning, computerized personality surveys and assessments and all this other stuff? (I outline some of the statistics and some of the issues in an older blog post you can find here along with Part Two of this thinking in a separate blog.)

My older blog article starts with:

In 2010, employers spent more on employees’ development than ever before: businesses in the United States spent $171.5 billion on employee learning in 2010, up from $125.8 billion in 2009, according to ASTD in their recent survey. Apparently, companies are seeing a benefit in investing in the development of their people and that there may be payoffs for that in terms of employee retention and improved performance.

It goes on to talk about some of my thinking about training and coaching and generating commitment. I do not see all this as being all that hard. One supervisor being coached and mentored to teach and support one front-line worker at a time. Sure there is all that technical stuff to teach, but so many basic statistics point to the reality that employee turnover is high due in large part because they do not feel as if they are effectively managed.

I mean, you can find some really elegant stuff out there. Amazingly well designed, logical, superbly crafted training and development programs. But like executives trying to implement strategy, 90% of those initiatives are viewed as failures by the people within the organization and they generally fail to generate any real results. (Am I being too hard here? Maybe, but $200,000,000,000 is a lot of money to find engagement of workers to be less than 30%. Ya think?)

We are spending tons of money on “outdoor team building adventure training” and not seeing any real improvement in business results. (I write my thoughts about why in a whole series of blog posts)

Wouldn’t you agree that you could structure a workplace environment that would involve and engage ONE person to improve their performance? I mean, some combination of improving the feedback they get from their behaviors (see my article on feedback and an analysis of high performance feedback systems) and do the mentoring and coaching needed to fully involve and engage them in making improvements in results?

Can’t you get ONE supervisor to accomplish that change and get ONE of their people to improve their performance? And couldn’t they do that more than one time, like maybe 10 times?

Collaboration. Instead of running around outside solving problems with strings, balls, sticks and buckets, or shooting at each other with paintball bullets or walking on ropes or hot coals or getting soaked on a full-day trip onto some whitewater river, couldn’t you spend half a day in a training room with an exercise that clearly demonstrates the benefits of resource management, strategic planning, project management, alignment, involving leadership and coaching, and collaboration between teams?

We got one of those in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. We sell these to companies and consultants with a one-time cost. And I will guarantee that you will get results and that the program will match your desired outcomes. It’s not cheap, but it IS one of the best values in the world of training and development.

We’ve been selling this game for organizational improvement initiatives for 20 years. We’ve had one game returned and no negative comments (that return occurred because the trainer did not get permission to deliver the planned training course.)

When it comes to people and involvement, why are we not simply asking people to be more involved, to share their ideas for what needs to be improved? We do not need a lot of surveys — a simple brainstorming session will produce a lot of the real perceived issues and opportunities for management to act on.

Like Rodney King said so long ago,

“Why can’t we all just get along?”
Why can’t we work on shared goals and objectives
and support better performance?

Celebration plane color green

The Round Wheels are out there!
They are already in the wagon.
Step back, identify and implement.

You can find Part Two by clicking here

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Teamwork, Communications and Optimization of Performance

My friend Lou Carloni has been sharing ideas about people and performance for many years and a post I received from him this morning was one that got my full attention. The focus of it was on the issues of team communications, and, of course, I will add my normal spin around experiential learning and organizational performance.

Lou’s firm was hired to study communication needs in the Baltimore-Washington Region and they interviewed, surveyed, and held focus groups with over 1000 business professionals. The question asked was,  “If your organization had only enough money, resources, and time to perform training in one area of communications which area would it be:  Reading, Writing, Speaking, or Listening?”

  • Reading and Writing combined received 5% of the vote;  
  • Speaking received 40%;  
  • Listening received 55%.  

I agree with Lou on suggested solutions. One of them was to Get There In Person.

It is not just words, it is how those all come together to drive involvement and engagement, how the issues are framed and how possible solutions are discussed. It is really hard for most leaders to truly understand all the current issues faced by performers working to meet and exceed expectations of management and customers. It is just too easy to keep doing things the same way they were done before, what I always refer to with this illustration:

SWs One green color thin

The real impacts come from managers who get in front of people, asking about issues and opportunities. Lou suggests that words alone account for only 8-10% of the message in interpersonal communication; the spoken sounds account for 30-40% of the message; and the non-verbal elements account for 50-60% of the real message you are trying to send. While you might agree or disagree with the numbers, the presence of the manager up front, listening and supporting is the key.

We accomplish this with our Square Wheels approach and offer a variety of tools and toolkits to assist in the process of facilitation. I have blogged often about this in here and you can find inexpensive Square Wheels Tools on our website. We also support a variety of different team building exercises like Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement that are designed to involve and engage people in problem solving. All these products can be delivered by managers with their work teams.

Lou also talked about Gaining Power With The Person. To this I would also add, The Team, since people do work collaboratively in most workplaces. This connects to developing rapport and trust. One way to accomplish this with individuals, teams and groups is through our team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. In this design, the Expedition Leader exists as a person interested in optimizing ROI and results.  The expressed goal of the game is to Mine as Much Gold as WE Can!

The reality is that the tabletops do not plan well, do not collaborate and communicate with other teams, nor do they bother to ask the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance. The game leader, just like the workplace leader, exists to support individuals and teams, but the choices people make are more often to go it alone and not ask for help. In the game, and in the workplace, this measurably sub-optimizes results.

We sell a variety of different Dutchman games, at different price points, for repeated organizational use. You can find out more information about the Lost Dutchman game by going to our website.

Performance feedback is a critical component of good performers and good results, but my work with organizations has continually shown that a wide variety of improvements can be made to impact performance results. You can find a free Feedback Analysis Tool through this blog post.

Lou also talked about Skills versus Attitudes, and I am not sure that these two things are operating against each other or part of a series of competencies that are all important. I am working up an article on Flow for the blog and for the articles section of my home page. Skill is important and there is a continuum of them and skills interact with the perceived challenges people face. Flow is when these mesh together…

I will not reflect herein as to how I see differences between Lou’s thinking and mine on this other than to say that I prefer the way Bob Mager deals with the question. Lou’s website is:  http://www.smbcinc.com

Hope you found this of interest and use,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Square Wheels – Going Viral on People and Performance

Jonah Berger’s recent book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, is about why things go viral in today’s social media world. He is a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business and in 2009, his team conducted a study of the most-emailed articles in the New York Times over a 6-month period. Berger compiled those findings, along with other information research on building brand popularity, to generate 6 key principles for going viral.

So, the challenge is to figure how to roll out the Square Wheels. (Do I need to put Obama pulling with The Clintons pushing or what? Do I need to do some little graphic images that everyone can share around? Do we do a Square Wheels video game like Angry Birds, where workers can shoot down Square Wheels and bad bosses? Do I need a One-Minute-Manager book on motivation? How can we move this forward?)

Berger’s 6 principles are:

  • social currency (peer popularity of the idea);
  • triggers (daily reminders of the idea or product);
  • emotional resonance (how much the idea or product inspires a deep emotional reaction);
  • observability (high visibility of a product essentially sells itself);
  • usefulness (we want to share useful information); and
  • storytelling (a narrative surrounding the idea or product provides stickiness.) 

Sounds like we have a pretty solid anchor point with something like this:

Perception of how things work SWs One

And the theme certainly sets the stage for usefulness and observability. After all,

  • The Square Wheels really ARE Everywhere! and 
  • The Round Wheels are already IN the wagon!

We also have a good storyline around the perception that the above is like most workplaces, as shown by the lack of engagement by a majority of workers, along with their feelings that no one is listening to their ideas. Involvement is a key motivator, for sure!

RWs Sig File icon

or maybe a Haiku of some kind:

Discover the Road haiku

This IS a storyline around people and motivation, around involvement and engagement, and around continuous improvement of the workplace. It is about involvement and engagement and about intrinsic motivation and performance feedback. But it raises a question of reality:

Intrinsic Improvement Haiku

The cartoons are sold in simple-to-use toolkits at our website, complete with ideas for facilitation, handouts, powerpoints and all that stuff. You can also buy coffee cups and refrigerator magnets with the the message about possibilities for improvement.

After all, managers should see lots of performance coaching opportunities as they work to develop their people. They should be looking at potential as well as dealing with issues and opportunities for improvement, something that looks like this:

Mentoring Color Icon

We all can support, coach, mentor and try to support the caterpillars as they struggle to become the butterflies of the future.

Like this. Share this. Help me make these Square Wheels more visible so that we can try to put more Round Wheels into play around the world,

For the FUN of It!

Elegant Solutions

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Rewarding High Performance in The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding game

Managers do not often deal with good performers in effective ways. Relying on extrinsic rewards is often a formula for completely missing the real underlying motivation of many high performers. Extrinsic reward systems are often problematic and cause more problems amongst the bottom 70% (who never win and are thus losers) or generate behaviors that are not congruent with missions and visions of the organization. I chat about that in a lot of my blog posts, most recently this one. There are a lot of posts on extrinsic motivation here.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a team building exercise that is a bit unusual in that it focuses on the collaboration between tabletops to optimize the measured results. It is only partly about winning — it is more about what the higher-performing teams could have done differently to support the lower performing teams to optimize overall results. The goal is, “To Mine as Much Gold as We Can” and to optimize the Expedition Leader’s return on investment. Obviously, the more ALL the teams perform, the better the overall results.

It also tends to generate a My Team, My Team, My Team kind of response in so many cultures that tend to reinforce competitiveness as a basic operational strategy — something that tends to make the words “Interdepartmental Collaboration” an oxymoron in so many companies. The reality is that more collaboration will most certainly improve organizational results, engagement, service, cost reduction, innovation, etc.

"My Team, My Team, My Team" focus can cause more competition than collaboration

A “My Team, My Team, My Team” focus can cause more competition than collaboration. The goal is to optimize organizational results, not win!

In Dutchman, teams can spend an extra day gaining information that enables them to optimize their results. One metaphor is a strategic planning one that allows them to re-allocate resources to have a better likelihood of success. The other is a Best Practice, one that enables them to move faster. It also gives them things to share with other teams – Turbochargers that double the speed of movement.

We’ve been supporting a network of consultant users and trainers since 1993 and have received most excellent feedback. As I note in another blog, we recently had the first Perfect Play that I have heard of. Some groups or triads within larger groups come close, but none got it perfect until David Simpson’s group of three teams with the retailer Coach. Now, the issue is optimizing post-game impacts and generating increased collaboration among the store managers now back at work.

Perfect Play has its own results summary powerpoint show.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

We first show what ONE team could do to optimize their results — it is about planning and using information and resources properly. Their path would look like this, with the 20 days numbered in the circles:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz007

They reach the Mine on Day 8, using up all their resources and returning on the last day possible, Day 20. The summary of results and resource use looks as follows and they had a surplus of $50 worth of stuff as well as two Turbochargers that they could have shared with two other teams (if they chose to). That sharing would have generated six more days of mining if all things were good.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz008

But the real Perfect Play occurs when two teams decide to collaborate with each other on the planning and then involve another group into their collective. That looks like this:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz009Instead of one team mining 9 gold, this framework allows for two teams to mine 10 and that extra team to mine ELEVEN. This has only occurred in David’s game. And it makes for a great debriefing, in that a lot of the right organizational optimization behaviors have occurred in play, the teams managed things in a relatively stress-free mode (with no fear of real failure) and it carries over very neatly into the discussions of what they could choose to do differently.

A high level of information sharing is needed. The resources are tight to generate this perfect result:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz010

And that very last part needs special mention.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz011

To get a Perfect Play, the three teams need to ask for $50 from the Expedition Leader! I mean, is that a perfect design or what?!!

From among 100 or so debriefing slides, we might emphasize these six:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

LD Debrief Triad 2

 

Our goal is to get successes among the players and among the teams, show the direct advantages of inter-team collaboration in the game, and bridge to the special advantages of inter-team collaboration back at work. The opportunities to share resources, collaborate, share best practices and help each other be successful in operations has huge leverage within the workplace as well as between departments. So, we use these kinds of handouts to generate ideas for improvement and discussions about choices we are making:

Adobe ReaderScreenSnapz001

And, my new game will focus even more attention on post-game collaboration and organizational improvement. You can see a few of the game design ideas here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

 

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

Team Building – Failures and Designing for Success

My friend Andrew Grant at Tirian is an Aussie and a great writer and thinker about all things team building. I just now got his newsletter and thought to repost it here. I strongly recommend that you read this and click on some of the embedded links to his other thoughts and writings.

More Better Faster Strategy

Here is what Andrew had to say:

Overcoming the IFS and BUTS of Team Building

The Australian swimming team’s performance in the London Olympics was the worst on record. This is a country where most children can swim before they can walk, and Australia is usually one of the strongest countries in this category, but this time around something went horribly wrong. A recent investigative report into the swimming team’s poor performance by Dr Pippa Grange has revealed that whilst the swimmers were all highly skilled physically, there was what has been described as a ‘toxic culture’ in the team. This led to, Dr Grange believes, ‘an increase in individualism, and in turn a diminished sense of responsibility or connectedness to the team’. Described as ‘a schoolyard clamour for attention and influence, with a ‘science’ of winning appearing to overshadow the ‘art’ of ‘leadership work”, the report has highlighted the need for strong leadership and alignment and a collective purpose.

It’s in situations such as these that developmental team building has a critically important role to play, as ironically all these soft skills can dramatically impact the bottom line outcomes. And yet there can be a great degree of cynicism and scepticism about the value and purpose of team building, and as a result it is often ignored – but at great cost.

How is it possible to design a team building session that works?
The typical response of individuals to the prospect of having to participate in a team building exercise has, by one jaded observer, been described as a ‘groaning’ response. Some feel they have ‘been-there-and-done-that’, while others are concerned about taking out valuable time from their day to do something that they feel is irrelevant (playing games). Some people reluctantly participate out of a fear of being seen to not conform, but they do so with hidden contempt. In these cases the team building program can be in danger of backfiring.

Through innovative simulations and engaging facilitation positive intervening experiences can and should be created. When professionally designed, these experiences can break down the barriers and provide unique leadership and team development opportunities and outcomes.

So how, exactly is this achieved?:
1) Check the group is 100% on board (challenge by choice)
Example: We once had a boss want to run an adventure based program, but he assumed that everyone would want to do what he did (a common mistake). He didn’t realise some people just don’t like running around chasing clues or being physically challenged. After a number of complaints the adventure idea was ditched. We ended up in an exclusive luxury resort in Japan where one of the unique cultural elements was to sleep on the floor! As this experience was so culturally different from anything else the team had been involved in, the desired goal to create a ‘unique’ experience that would challenge the team was achieved. We created a 3 day program around this event that really broke down the barriers and achieved incredible outcomes.

Solution: Taking people slightly outside their comfort zone does have benefits as it can challenge individuals to examine their behaviours, (with no hierarchy) but not to the point of discomfort where individuals feel coerced or threatened. Choose activities that all are comfortable enough with and all can participate willingly in.

2) Ensure the facilitators are skilled
Example: We recently ran a program with a skilled PhD trained facilitator from McKinsey – as she explained, facilitators at her level can spend hours just crafting a single question to ensure that the team can gain a major insight from the experience, and then adapt their behavior as a result. For the activity to have meaning there needs to be a learning outcome where some insight dawns on the participant in a way they will never forget, as it’s connected to the experience. Like a good chef, this goes way beyond simply knowing the individual ingredients to being able to design the final professional creation (a carefully blended combination). This is not the sort of experience where a university student tells a team to open the next clue, and then asks them ‘how they feel about it’.

Solution: Ensure that the facilitators for the program are qualified and experienced. Inexpensive and inexperienced facilitators might save on the day’s budget, but the real cost is wasting the participants’ time if an activity cannot be properly framed, contextualized and debriefed.

3) Ensure the program is both intelligent and relevant
Example: The danger with the ‘Amazing Race’ type exercises is that these programs tend to be linear with shallow content, and whilst fun, the time invested is often not worth the outcome. This easily leads to the ‘groaning’ /contempt effect.

Solution: Ensure the program content is intelligent and relevant: good team building should have an authentic theme to make it memorable, with intelligent and relevant facts and case studies related to the theme. As an example, one of our most popular programs which uses this strategy is ‘ON THIN ICE’. The program is a simulated expedition to Antarctica, with lots of video footage and interesting facts and information about the challenges faced by actual Antarctic expeditions. During the simulation a variety of issues related to virtual and cross cultural team challenges, leadership challenges, communication challenges and so on quickly surface. With careful questioning and framing, the real issues can be effectively and professionally dealt with. To add some inspiration, we often invite a polar expeditioner in to share first-hand stories of the challenges individuals and teams face in these high pressured situations, and the leadership skills needed to survive.

4) Focus on the key outcome rather than the activity – creating high performance collaborative teams
Example: A client once came to us asking to design a highly competitive team building program. When we enquired about the desired outcome, we were told ‘collaboration’. Even as the question was being answered, the client began to see the irony. This client was focusing on the activity rather than the outcome. Most work teams would struggle with the ambiguity of collaboration in a culture that breeds self-survival and competition. And yet the productivity of a work group often ultimately depends on how the group members see their own goals in relation to the goals of the organisation. As 4 out of 9 people struggle with successful collaboration in the workplace, this should be a key focus of any team development program.

Solution: Team building programs need to be engaging and exciting, but not at the expense of reaching what must be the key goal of any team development program – collaboration. Simply participating in a collaborative exercise will also not be enough. Anyone can collaborate when they need to and when the conditions are controlled. The experiential learning opportunity created should drive home the need for true collaboration no matter how challenging the circumstances. (Read his post on The Collaboration Deception here)

Simulation for success

In most organisations employees are required to make more complex decisions more quickly, with fewer resources and no margin for error. Becoming good at this necessitates something few people have – opportunities to practice.

Musicians, actors and athletes wouldn’t dream of performing without extensive practice. But how do business people practice? Mostly they end up making mistakes and learning by trial and error. But learning from real mistakes can get expensive – both for the company and for the people who make them. Simulations create a “virtual practice field” that allows individuals and teams to test assumptions and experiment with ideas without having to suffer financial reversals or career setbacks.

So what does effective team building do? Peter Senge says that companies need to create practice places where issues that arise in the work place can be isolated and focused on. This enables the team to see the consequences of particular actions and incidents that can occur very rapidly in the workplace, and ensure they can be examined in more detail. The complexities of the everyday working environment can be simplified and analysed. Actions and attitudes that cannot be reversed or taken back in the real world can be re-tried countless times in a protected environment. If the participants are successfully brought on board, the environment is favourable, the content intelligent, the method educational, the facilitator skilled, and the focus correct… team building experiences can be high impact and highly transformational.

As Plato has so cleverly identified, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.”

Ensure the experience is well designed and planned, and you can ensure great success.

You can sign up for Andrew’s Great Stuff  at www.tirian.com/articles/about-t-thoughts/

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Spring into Innovation – Some Thoughts about Involvement and Motivation

There are a lot of blogs and groups focused on the themes of innovation, and so many know so much that it continues to be mind boggling.

There appear to be two main camps, one that says that Innovation Occurs in Big Leaps and one that focuses more on what I have been calling Continuous Continuous Improvement for many years (that label from the Department of Redundancy Department!).

The Big Leaps People tend to use a specific set of creativity and structured innovation tools and an “outsider’s approach” and look for huge quantum jumps in things. These kinds of innovators get most of the attention from Fast Company and Wired and the venture capitalists and represent the Heros of the Universe. For people with this viewpoint, creativity is a learned skill and one that often takes on a very structured approach to opportunity identification. Think of the creative meetings at advertising agencies that push for the Big Idea on TV and reward those extravagantly.

Sometimes, that One Big Idea just appears out of nowhere and is so enticing that people can raise millions of dollars from others who see the potential. That is why some of the big software companies spend bazillions on some new idea from some small company long before it shows that it generates a cent of profits or is worth even a tiny portion of a bazillion dollars.

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Sometimes, we can be focused on our wagons while only the horse sees the idea of the cargo plane. (So, the solution is to hire the horse?)

But there is another kind of innovation that gets my interests, since it has so many impacts on people, performance and the workplace. It has links to leadership and motivation and organizational development.

Me, I like the writings of people like Sidney D’Mello, my new professor friend who focuses on confusion as a key to learning and retention. People learn more when they are placed in a situation where some problem solving is required. I like the literature on facilitation and collaboration that enable people from different viewpoints and backgrounds to get together to consider possibilities of doing things differently. In those kinds of workshop sessions, we get an occasional Big Leap, but more often, it is framed around the improvement of existing work processes.

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Improving existing work processes can have BIG impacts on motivation, performance results and innovation, however. That one small, implemented improvement can make a BIG positive impact on one person who has been frustrated in dealing with that issue, and it can be the first step forward of many more. Seeing that idea implemented by one person can help reassure the other people that the organization is willing to consider doing things differently, which can then involve and engage the others in rolling forward.

So, now that Spring has Sprung here in South Carolina, we are enthused by a new addition to our games and toolkits.

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This interesting new development is the completion of our team building and creativity game, Innovate & Implement. This is a fun, fast-playing board game designed to enable innovation and get ideas implemented into the workplace. We get players into a problem-solving framework whereby they need to work together and deal with different kinds of common organizational roadblocks.

Take a narrative pictorial tour of Innovate & Implement by clicking on the link. It is a fully-packaged organizational intervention designed to involve and engage people in generating new ideas for doing things better and faster.

Good ideas exist but to implement them, people need motivation to overcome barriers and issues. This is why I&I is more than just a game–it works to engage and enlist people and teams in improvement initiatives.

Open a window for innovation and implementation in order to impact your employees and organization with positive, refreshing improvements. And have more FUN out there!

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Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Managers – Biggest Contributors or Biggest Problem?

An outstanding article got published today by Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup. If you have not noticed the transition of this company over the years, it has moved from its stereotyped base as a “polling organization” to one that is tightly focused on issues of workplace improvement. This article by Mr. Clifton appeared in LinkedIn and is mindblowing.

Jim CliftonYou can find the article here: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130322105453-14634910-beware-of-managers-from-hell

The data — 1,390,941 workers compiled into one database — says that of the 100,000,000 or so full time workers in the US, 30,000,000  (30%) are engaged and inspired at work and 20,000,000 (20%) employees  are actively disengaged. It’s that old Henny Youngman line, “…Take my wife. Please!” reframed to, “…Take my boss… Please!” in the case of the 20 million who – again – are ACTIVELY dis-engaged, un-involved and un-inspired.

Henny Youngman( See Henny Youngman perform on Ed Sullivan (1966). )

The point that Youngman makes is that he wishes things could be different (he is actually joking, and it is funny!). The point Jim Clifton makes is that leadership in management is a critical factor in employee motivation and performance, and that good managers are a lot different than bad bosses in how they impact the workplace and the US economy. He is not joking and nothing is funny about allowing things to simply continue the way things are…

As Clifton says,

Here is my big conclusion: A workforce of 100 million employees in America requires a 10-1 ratio of managers to teams. So, for the U.S. to be perfectly managed, it requires 10 million great supervisors and then 1 million great managers of those supervisors. Pick the right people for these roles, the ones who know best how to engage their people, and the country will rise up economically like never before.

But the problem is, given my 10-1 ratio, there are, in my estimate, only about 3 million great managers inspiring and motivating those 30 million engaged employees. That’s just not enough great leadership.

 We do NOT need 3 million great managers leading people; what we need are a few million fewer Bad Bosses un-leading them! In other posts in my blog, I discuss dis-un-engagement and the issues surrounding the unmotivated middle of the workforce. We can impact them in many ways. In my post about the seemingly unmotivated, I discuss my thinking on what we can do differently to make improvements. It is not rocket science. In my post about Pogo, it is about this simple concept:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Like  Mr. Clifton, I believe that we must make changes in how people are managed. His approach is focused on engagement, and so is mine. He takes the position that the three key issues of importance, based on their survey results are:

1.     At work,  I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. This is the single-best survey item you can ask an employee. If they score high on this, it means they have been assigned a job for which they have the talent to excel. Mastering this begins with companies identifying employees’ strengths and putting them in the right roles.

2.     There is someone at work who encourages my development.

3.     At work, my opinions seem to count.

I take the position that most people are un-engaged and un-involved and that every manager and supervisor needs to focus in DIS-un-engagement and the implementation of ideas — Engagimentation. It is a simple concept of facilitating ideas in the workplace and then working to implement those ideas by better managing perceived and actual roadblocks. The tools are simple and the approach is straightforward.

Reality of how things work SWs One

and the possibilities that exist for making the workplace a better place:

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Engagimentation

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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